Utah National Guardsmen receive extensive training throughout their military careers. On occasion, those soldiers bring their own skills to the table. Robert Stephens of Providence had such an experience during his most recent deployment.
Locally, Stephens has been a paramedic engineer with the Logan City Fire Department for 19 years while also serving in the Utah National Guard.
In 2008, he was assigned to be a training coordinator within the fire department, which in turn led him to Logan Regional Hospital, an American Heart Association training center that provides AHA-certified training for medical and non-medical providers.
“Intermountain Healthcare connects with the community by offering these classes, and in this case, the classes are helping people in other parts of the world because of the excellent work Robert has been doing,” said Jill Talbot, the AHA Training Center coordinator.
Stephens is one of 128 instructors in Cache Valley who are certified to teach Heartsaver First Aid/CPR/AED, Basic Life Support for Health Providers (BELS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
According to Talbot, these instructors in turn certify workers at Cassia Regional Hospital, Bear River Hospital, Franklin County Medical Center, Utah State University, Bridgerland Technical College and more.
During the last year, while deployed in Kuwait with the Utah National Guard’s 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, Stephens realized that providers need to keep up their certifications wherever they are.
“I had prepared to teach, just in case, but my main focus was on the operations of the brigade, and assisting where ever was needed throughout the brigade,” Stephens said. “When the teaching came up, I was excited, because that is what I like to do.”
He was first asked to teach BELS, ACLS and PALS classes within his unit, but the word spread and soon Stephens was helping other providers throughout Kuwait. Some military personnel were even flown to Kuwait in order to keep up their certifications.
Stephens completed 181 trainings, with the support of Talbot and Shayna Hibbard, the AHA administrative assistance.
“These programs help save lives,” Hibbard said. “They are a benefit to the community, and this shows you just how far-reaching the effects can be.”
As he taught a class in Kuwait, Talbot and Hibbard worked from Logan to complete the paperwork before sending the certification cards back to Stephens via email.
Both of the women said they are just “behind the scenes” people, but Stephens would disagree, saying there were times they had to make some significant adjustments in their work schedule to accommodate the 9-hour time difference between Kuwait and Utah.
When Stephens returned to Utah in May, he promptly visited Talbot and Hibbard at Logan Regional Hospital with a simple yet meaningful token of gratitude for their help — an American flag that was flown over Camp Buehring in Kuwait for each of them.
“Robert is an amazing person; I appreciate his years of service for our country and his kindness and generosity in my behalf,” Hibbard said. “Receiving this flag left me speechless. It is a gift I will not soon forget.”
Stephens has been spending the summer with his family after being away for nearly a year, but he plants to be back at work with the fire department in September.